EXCLUSIVE: Big-canvas connoisseur Roland Emmerich is in Cannes this week to reveal his vision for latest epic Moonfall. Emmerich took part in a packed buyers session this afternoon in which he laid out his vision for the $150M sci-fi film, the biggest-budget project on sale at this year’s market. Hundreds of buyers attended the buzzy session in the Carlton ballroom. Emmerich, regular collaborator Kloser and AGC Studio’s Stuart Ford (all pictured above) took part in the Q&A presentation.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, the filmmaker tells us what to expect from the movie, which will follow an unlikely band of misfits who must save mankind when the moon falls out of orbit and hurtles toward earth.
“This was a project I’ve wanted to make for a long time,” Emmerich explains. “It is borne out of my fascination with the moon. This is a movie with a big idea. When you read about the moon and learn about how peculiar it is…it’s the oddest object in many ways. There’s no other moon as strange in the solar system.”
Thematically and tonally, Emmerich views Moonfall as a cross between two of his most successful pictures, “If you like my movies, you’ll like this movie. It’s very much like 2012 and Independence Day. It’s a mix of the two, but without an extraterrestrial element. There is a big twist at some point, but I don’t want to give that away now. I had a very clear idea about the tone I wanted on this film. All my movies have humour and don’t take themselves too seriously. Comic relief is important in big films. Look at the original Star Wars. Or all the Marvel movies. You have to have a laugh as well.”
Emmerich has written the script with his 2012 collaborator Harald Kloser and Spenser Cohen. Cast has yet to be set but the team has met with scientists and professors about the project and its arc (the full synopsis is below). Centropolis Entertainment is producing and AGC Studios and CAA Media Finance are on board for world sales.
“I see this movie as having franchise potential,” Emmerich tells us. “I haven’t done that before. On Independence Day, we did another one because the studio asked, and in fact, I have a third part if the studio is interested. I had seen Stargate as a trilogy but that didn’t come together. So all my movies but one have been standalone.”
The director is currently finishing up on another epic, World War Two action film Midway, which is out later this year and which was also teased to the buyers today. The $100M feature was largely pieced together in the independent marketplace with Lionsgate aboard early for domestic and a big slug of money coming from China. Emmerich is happy to replicate the financial model of that film with Moonfall, even if the project was initially set up with Universal. We hear the team are already amid a blizzard of interest from potential buyers.
“I wanted to go independent after my experience on Midway,” says the director. “It was tricky to put together but when I was doing it, it was the first time in a long time I’d had freedom to do what I wanted. As a director that’s paradise. There were no issues with the casting. At a studio, they often want to do something different, there are so many voices. Lately, studios have been more careful when it comes to making original movies and Moonfall is definitely an original one. In this time of superhero movies there are fewer and fewer original prospects out there. I thought let’s make the movie we really want to make. When I came to LA almost 30 years ago, that was the rule I wanted to follow. I’ve always looked left when I’m meant to look right. Most of the time that’s proved successful.”
What of Moonfall’s ‘unlikely band of misfits’? “The group are Americans,” the LA-based German filmmaker reveals. “It’s a diverse group of Americans. We have some actors in mind but very few of my movies have required huge stars. The Patriot was one of those. The studio on that film wanted a star; they gave me three names and said they’d make it if I could get one. The first name on the list was Mel [Gibson] and we got him. But I tend to work a different way. I like to cast against the grain. Jake Gyllenhaal wasn’t the household name he is now when he made Day After Tomorrow. On Independence Day, I wanted Will Smith as the pilot but the character hadn’t been written as a black part. When I told the studio who I wanted, they freaked. It took a long time to get it passed them. There are different ways to go, of course. Gravity had big stars. But a lot of money can go into stars.”
Emmerich isn’t slowing down. After Moonfall he wants to make long-time passion project Maya Lord. “The film has been a little delayed but we’re discussing building a permanent set in Peru, which could be used as a park afterwards. The plan is to make Maya Lord after this. I have to make that movie. It’s an amazing story.”
Don’t expect him to jump on the superhero train anytime soon, though. “I didn’t grow up with superhero films,” he says. “I grew up with Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann. I often watch the first films in franchises. I liked Tim Burton’s Batman and the first Iron Man. But I get confused. There are so many.”
Here’s the official synopsis for Moonfall:
‘The Moon. It controls our nights, our days, the seasons, and our ocean tides. And since the beginning of humankind, its phases stood as a symbol of enlightenment, inner knowledge – and our own immortality. Until now. Suddenly and without warning a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact, and against all odds, a ragtag team launches an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love and risking everything to land on the lunar surface, unlock its secrets, and save our planet from annihilation. But first they must battle an unknown and unfathomable power that will challenge everything we know about the moon, the universe, and ourselves.’